Hey everyone! I’m really excited to have Shalanda Stanley, author of Drowning Is Inevitable (September 8th 2015, Knopf Books for Young Readers), here for an interview. First, here’s more about the book:
Olivia has spent her whole life struggling to escape her dead mother’s shadow. But when her father can’t even look at her because Olivia reminds him of her mother, and her grandmother mistakenly calls her “Lillian,” shaking a reputation she didn’t ask for is next to impossible. Olivia is used to leaning on her best friend, Jamie; her handsome but hot-tempered boyfriend, Max; and their wild-child friend, Maggie, for the reality check that her small Louisiana town can’t provide. But when a terrible fight between Jamie and his father turns deadly, all Olivia can think to do is grab her friends and run.
In a flash, Olivia, Jamie, Max, and Maggie become fugitives on the back roads of Louisiana. They’re headed to New Orleans, where they hope to find a solution to an unfixable problem. But with their faces displayed on all the news stations, their journey becomes a harrowing game of hide-and-seek from the police—and so-called allies, who just might be the real enemy.
Shalanda Stanley’s breathtaking debut novel explores the deep ties between legacy, loyalty, and love, even as it asks the question: How far would you go to save a friend?
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And now here’s the interview! Enjoy!
Question: Congratulations! Your debut novel, Drowning is Inevitable, will be out in the world soon! What have you been doing the last few weeks/months to prepare for release?
Answer: I’ve been eating a lot. And having weird dreams where only three people come to the launch party and one of them is Randy Travis. I’ve also been doing a lot of author talks and blog interviews. School visits have been my favorite promotional activity.
Question: Drowning is Inevitable touches on several sensitive topics, such as suicide and what it means for those left behind – as well as the topics of family, friendship and loyalty. What inspired you to write about these things? What do you hope your readers will take away from it?
Answer: My own grief inspired me to write about the heavy topics in Drowning is Inevitable. I lost my brother to a car accident ten years ago and for a very long time I didn’t know how to find a new normal. When someone you love dies, the love doesn’t. The hardest part for me, in moving forward, was finding a place to put that love that only belonged to him. While I didn’t lose him to suicide, I did lose him and myself for a while. We were very close. Being left behind is hard. There’s a hole there. This book helped me explore those feelings and put words to it.
The biggest take away I want for readers is that the emotions and topics in the book feel real. I want the reader to be left feeling loved and gutted and ultimately hopeful for the main character, Olivia.
Question: Craziest thing you had to Google while writing/researching for this book?
Answer: I had to Google cases of Patricide and lots of things related to Louisiana law. Olivia and her best friend Jamie are involved in the death of Jamie’s father and this is the catalyst that sends them on the run. Louisiana is still under Napoleonic Law, which means things are a little different down here. (Okay, a lot different.) Our laws are very lenient in some regards, but not when it comes to death. If you’re going to kill someone, don’t do it in Louisiana. The conviction rate is extremely high, and even a second degree murder conviction carries a life sentence. In Louisiana, a life sentence is not twenty-five years, but the rest of your life. We have a lot of old, dying men in our state prison.
Question: Any fun plans for release day? What do you think you’ll do the first time you see your book in stores?
Answer: My launch party was on my release day (Thank goodness more than three people came and none of them were Randy Travis), so I spent the day mentally preparing for the big event. This entailed eating cupcakes and trying to write a speech, but that made me more nervous, so ultimately I winged it. The party was amazing. Debuting in a small town is such a great experience, because the entire community came out to support me. It was a cup runneth over experience for me
The first time I saw my book in a bookstore, I did a little dance, and there might’ve been some squeeing. Also, my friends have been great in sending me pics of the book at their bookstores. I dance and squee when I see those, too.
Question: Are you working on anything new?
Answer: I am! I’m working on new novel that’s Romeo and Juliet meets Bonnie and Clyde. It’s tentatively titled, It Didn’t Have To End This Way and I’m having so much fun writing it
About the Author:
Shalanda Stanley grew up in Louisiana and earned her BA in creative writing at Florida State University. She has an MEd in special education from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and a PhD from LSU in curriculum and instruction, with a focus in reading and literacy education. She’s an assistant professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where she also lives with her family.
She is represented by literary agent, Kate Mckean at the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.
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